Monday, October 31, 2016

Stewardship of the Mind

October 30th, 2016                   “Stewardship of the Mind”               Rev. Heather Jepsen
Psalm 1 and Romans 12:1-2
          Today we continue our four part stewardship series.  Last week we talked about good stewardship of the body and rather than offering you a guilt infused healthy checklist, I just told you to love your body which can be much more difficult.  I am curious to know how our standing naked in front of the mirror exercise went last week.  I can say that I did it every morning and I am surprised to report that it made a real difference in my self-esteem.  I hope you had similar results.   
          As I mentioned last week, although this is a stewardship series we are saving the money talk for the end.  Today we are talking about the stewardship of our minds, which can entail lots of things.
          We all remember the two greatest commandments that Jesus gives us.  We are called as followers of God to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our minds . . . and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Loving God with all of our minds is an important part of developing a life of faith.  But just how do we love God with our mind?
          The Psalmist has some great suggestions.  “Happy are those whose delight is in the law or the teachings of our Lord.  On the teachings of God they mediate day and night.”  By grounding ourselves in the word of God we become like “trees planted by streams of water, that yield abundant fruit and do not wither.”  The Psalmist is telling us that the key to abundant life is to know and study the word of God.
          Some folks interpret this as a zeal for following the rules.  These people are really passionate about knowing all the rules of faith, following all the laws of the church, and upholding the ways of order or the minutiae of scripture over anything else.  These are those people who can quote scripture for any circumstance and can twist the words of the Bible to defend whatever they think the “correct” position is.  I don’t think that is what the Psalmist is talking about.   
          Rather, I think the Psalmist is talking about a deep love and knowledge of the Lord.  I think this is about folks who read the Bible regularly and wrestle with what they find there.  This isn’t simple proof texting.  Rather, this is taking the lessons from scripture and wrestling with them in conversation with our daily lives.  How do we take writings that are thousands of years old and apply them to the 21st century?
          I can name lots of people who take delight in studying God’s word.  I am thinking of my friends in our adult Sunday school class, or in the Tuesday Brown Bag Bible study.  These are folks who are committed to studying the word of God, but also eager to engage in what I want to call “theological play”.  Where does God intersect in our own lives?  How do the stories of the Bible influence us today?  How can we make sense of the world around us through the lens of faith?  No statement is too out there and no question is out of bounds.  This theological play demonstrates a love of God’s word as well as good stewardship of the mind.
          In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul suggests that we offer our whole selves as a gift to God.  “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is spiritual worship.”  Sacrifices of course, are things that are killed on the altar so this language can be a bit confusing.  A better word for us today might be consecrated.  Present your bodies, present the whole of who you are, as a consecrated offering to God.  This isn’t far off from our sermon last week.  Your body is a good gift from a loving God and should be appreciated as such.  So too, is your mind.
          Paul challenges us not to be “conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  We are called to make a gift of our minds to God, and to let God transform the way that we think.  I have seen this over and over again in my own life as the Holy Spirit inspires new thinking and new ideas not simply about my own place in the world but also about how I lead God’s church.  I think of myself as being constantly transformed by the renewing of my mind.
          What about you, do you sense this in your own life?  Where once we thought one way, suddenly God touches our hearts and minds, and we shift and change opinion.  Where once the church was headed in one direction, together we are touched by the Holy Spirit, and we begin to consider new ways of being the church.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
          Today we gather to remember all the saints who have gone before us into the great cloud of witnesses.  All of these folks were influenced by their faith life.  All of these folks were transformed by the renewing of their minds, and that transformation was evident in their actions of faith.  The consecration of their bodies is now complete in death and they are totally united with God.  These saints of the church are wonderful examples of those who have practiced a stewardship of the mind.
         As this election season draws to a close I think it is important to lift up two more aspects of what I consider to be good stewardship of the mind.  The first is to take responsibility for being well informed.  As with any political election, there is a lot of lying going on out there on both sides of every candidate and every issue.  In an environment like this, it is vitally important that we seek out non-partisan sources of information.  It is our job to seek out the truth behind what we are told on the TV or what we read on the internet.  Good stewardship of the mind, means using your critical thinking to be well informed about the issues facing our world.  That is a responsibility of someone who is going to love God and neighbor, using their whole heart and mind.
          The second thing I want to remind us this election season is how to stop the madness.  Now I know that I am young, but I have never seen people get as worked up as they are about this election.  Folks are going out of their minds with stress, and fear, and rage.  This is not good, and it is in our power to stop it.
          Good stewardship of the mind this election season, means controlling your mind.  Take a break from the election rhetoric.  Pause and let things go.  When you feel your heart rate increase and your blood pressure rise; turn off the TV and walk away.  Leave it for a while.  Stop the cycle of madness.
          Praying is a great option, but I am also a big fan of meditation for helping to deal with stress.  Learn how to turn your mind off.  Learn how to rest in silence.  There are lots of opportunities for this at church from prayers here in worship, to walking the Labyrinth on Tuesdays (available through election night), to yoga on Monday mornings (which is also good stewardship of the body).  Good stewardship of the mind means knowing how to calm yourself down.  Don’t let this maddening election cycle eat you up.  Step back, breathe, vote, and then walk away.
          Our texts this morning remind us that God loves the whole of who we are; body, mind, and soul.  God wants us to rejoice in the study of God’s word and in “theological play.”  God wants to transform us by the renewing of our minds.  God wants to change who we are by changing how we think.  Part of being good stewards of the gifts God has given us, is being good stewards of our minds.  Thanks be to God for the wonderful blessing of our brains.  Amen.

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